Saturday, November 21, 2009

Building Our Future Audience

It's never too early to recruit our future audiences. Indeed, I can hardly think of a more important activity: if we leave our youth behind, who will attend early music concerts in the coming years? Time is always precious, so why would someone come to an early music concert if they thought of it in terms of ancient and obscure instruments performing old and boring music?

So, the outreach program of the San Diego Early Music Society is more than a duty, it is a passion. This year we were especially fortunate to bring members of Musica ad Rhenum to Oak Park Elementary. I'm embarrassed to admit that Oak Park's existence has eluded me: more properly, it should be referred to as Oak Park Music Conservatory. It is part of our magnet school program, focused on providing a broad education, but with additional exposure to music. I thought music education was largely dead in California public schools, so this was an exciting find for me.

I could hardly imagine a better early music ensemble to bring with us. The five members of Musica ad Rhenum are fun to hang around with: good natured, spontaneous, and generous. I noticed in their formal performance last night that they played as a group of peers – there was no prima donna, but rather a friendly gathering of virtuosi collaborators.

We had lots to show these budding musicians. They were naturally fascinated with the contrast between the small harpsichord we brought and the modern piano. One observant child wondered why the baroque violin didn't have a chin rest. There was a lot of interest in the nearly keyless baroque flute, demonstrated by Jed Wentz; they could relate to this  because it was a kind of cross between the recorders and modern flutes they play.

Viola da gamba player Cassandra Luckhardt led a wonderful discussion of the differences between the gamba and cello, assisted by baroque violin cello player Job ter Haar. See the size and feel the energy of this enthusiastic audience. These kids are not only our future audience, they are our musical future.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Apotheosis of Beauty

Next Friday, Musica Ad Rhenum will present a program entitled 'Apotheosis of the Beauty' and beautiful it promises to be. We will indeed get to hear two of the 'Paris' quartets which are among the best pieces Telemann ever wrote.

Why Paris ? Some details about his trip there and the compostion of these new quartets can be found in his autobiopgraphy: "My long-planned trip to Paris where I had already been invited several years ago by some of the virtuosi who lived there and had taken great pleasure in [performing] some of my printed music finally took place around Michaelmas, 1737. This trip took 8 months. In Paris I had had engraved in copper for publication, after having received from the king the permission and copyright for 20 years, new quartets (by previous subscription) and 6 sonatas consisting entirely of melodic canons. The astonishing manner in which the quartets were played by Messrs. Blauet, transverse flute, Guignon, violinist, Forcroy, his son on the viola da gamba, and Edouard, violoncellist would deserve to be described here at length if only there were sufficient words available to do so. In short, they pricked up the ears of people at the court and in the city so that they became very attentive and, in a short time, I received general approbation which was accompanied by even greater politeness. [...] Thus I left Paris with a feeling of having achieved great pleasure and in the hope that I would return again in the future. (Translation by Thomas Braatz, 2009)"
Note that Mr Frocroy in this case was no less than Jean-Baptiste Forqueray (whose music we heard played by Blandine Rannou a month ago) and Mr Blauet is the famous Michel Blavet. There is no mention of the harpsichordist which probably means that Telemann himself played in these concert too. And what a concert it must have been !

On the program too -and to keep the "Parisian" link- are pieces by Francois Couperin. It is well known that Couperin always tried to reconcile the Italian and French tastes in music and his 'Grande Sonade en Trio' l'apotheose de Corelli is one of the best example of it. The (delicious) French subtitles read :

"Corelli au pied du Parnasse prie les Muses de le Recevoir parmi elles Corelli charmé de la bonne réception qu'on lui fait au Parnasse, en marque sa joye. Il continüe avec ceux qui L'accompagnent.
Corelli buvant à la source d'Hypocrêne. Sa troupe continue
Enthouziasme de Corelli causé par les eaux d'Hypocréne
Corelli après son enthouziasme s'endort ; et sa Troupe jouë le Sommeil suivant
Les Muses réveillent Corelli, et le placent auprès d'Apollon
Remerciment de Corelli "

Which can be roughly translated as :

"Corelli at the foot of Parnassus prays the Muses to receive him among them
Corelli charmed by the favorable reception given to him on Parnassus expresses his joy. He continues with those who accompany him.
Corelli drinking at the spring of Hippocrene. His troupe continues on.
Corelli's divine frenzy caused by the waters of Hippocrene
Corellu after his divine frenzy falls asleep and his troupe plays the following sommeil.
The Muses awake Corelli and place him at Apollo's side.
Corelli's thanks."

And since we are talking about Francois Couperin, there was no way to omit his solo harpsichord music in such a concert. Michael Borgstede, the harpsichordist of Musica Ad Rhenum and who has just recorded his complete 'ordres' for Brilliant Classics will thus present 5 pieces from the 25th ordre. He will be joined by Jed Wentz, flauto traverso, Igor Rukadze, violin, Cassandra Luckhardt, viola da gamba and Job ter Haar, violoncello, for the rest of the program.
Don't miss this exciting concert. For more details, please visit Friday, Nov 20, 8pm, St James by the Sea.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Reviewing the City Musick

Valerie Scher of the San Diego News Network ( has just reviewed our concert by the City Musick. Her review can be found here.

If you have missed it, there was also another article by her a week ago about the SDEMS.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

City Musick: Topping Tooters of the Town

"Waits" were bands of professional musicians who played at civic and ceremonial occasions in Renaissance England. These musicians were primarily wind instrument performers, playing the shawm, sackbut and cornett. A new group, City Musick, has been formed by the William Lyons, known to many from his work with the Dufay Collective, to perform the music of the waits.

The San Diego Early Music Society is fortunate to be able to present City Music on their premier American tour. Their program in San Diego, "The Topping Tooters of the Town," will feature dances, psalm tunes, canzonets and traditional tunes from 16th and 17th century England, and include works by Holborne, Morley, Phillips, Ravenscroft, Dowland among others.

Please join us on October 16th, at 8pm, at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church, 743 Prospect Street, La Jolla for this concert which promises to be historically informative as well as fun! Tickets are available by calling (619) 291-8246, or through our Web site, Prices: General public - $25; SDEMS members - $22; students - $10.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blandine Rannou

Albeit the opening concert of the 2009-2010 International Series of the SDEMS will be on October 16th with City Musick, we are very pleased to present the first of our two non-subscription concerts on October 9th: Harpsichordist Blandine Rannou will perform pieces by Louis, Francois and Armand-Louis Couperin as well as Forqueray and Balbastre at the Congregational Church in la Jolla

This is actually the second time Blandine Rannou will play for San Diego audiences. Her debut was in October 2003 when she was invited by the San Diego Harpsichord Society. She then played Rameau, Duphly, Royer and Forqueray (excerpts from the 1st suite) and those of us who attended it still remember it vividly and fondly. Jonathan Saville raved about her recital in the San Diego Reader: “I have never heard a harpsichord recital that delighted and moved me more than this splendid concert did.”

No wonder that we are really thrilled to have her back, especially since she will continue her exploration of the French harpsichord repertoire, for which she has a very special affinity (given how well her recordings of Rameau, Couperin and Forqueray have been received by critics worldwide). This time, we will get to hear most of the Couperin family (from the birth of the harpsichord in France with Louis to its death with Armand-Louis and of course stopping at its summit with François), Forqueray again with most of the 5th suite including the beautiful La Sylva and the devastating Jupiter and Balbastre’s all-time favorites La De Caze, La D’Héricourt and La Boullongne.

A concert not to miss for harpsichord lovers.

(October 9th at 8pm at the Congregational Church in la Jolla on Cave street. There is usually free street parking available, and plenty of $3 parking spaces just across the street. Tickets for this concert can be ordered from the SDEMS at (619) 291-8246 or with keyword search "Blandine Rannou".)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Really Early Music

From the New York Times

Scientists say that a bone flute, found at Hohle Fels Cave in southwestern Germany, is at least 35,000 years old.

Music and sculpture — expressions of artistic creativity, it seems — were emerging in tandem among some of the first modern humans when they began spreading through Europe or soon thereafter.

Archaeologists Wednesday reported the discovery last fall of a bone flute and two fragments of ivory flutes that they said represented the earliest known flowering of music-making in Stone Age culture. They said the bone flute with five finger holes, found at Hohle Fels Cave in the hills west of Ulm, was “by far the most complete of the musical instruments so far recovered from the caves” in a region where pieces of other flutes have been turning up in recent years.

For more pictures and a sound sample go to here

Friday, May 29, 2009

"fiendish virtuosity and expressive elegance"

The SDEMS is pleased to present an extra non-subscription concert on June 3 at 8pm : Harpsichordist Bertrand Cuiller will perform works by William Byrd, John Bull (the King's hunt), Louis Couperin, J.S. Bach (Italian Concerto) and Domenico Scartlatti. We chose the Congregational Church of La Jolla to hold this event because if its ideal intimacy for recitals, and its exceptional acoustics for harpsichord music (as demonstrated so often during the recitals presented by the San Diego Harpsichord Society in the past).

Bertrand Cuiller is one of the most promising harpsichordists of today. He studied with Christophe Rousset and Pierre Hantai, and was a prizewinner at the Bruges International harpsichord competition. His first solo recording of music by William Byrd, Peter Philips and John Bull, was awarded the prestigious Diapason d'or, and Choc du Monde de la Musique. When reviewing this recording, Diapason wrote : "... between fiendish virtuosity and expressive elegance. [...] This attention to tone color, to density of texture, to the profound meaning of the keyboard language, wouldn't be anything without superior abilities, and those of Bertrand Cuiller seem infinite."

More details on this concert (including a link to Bertrand Cuiller's own website and musical excerpts of his Byrd recording) can be found on

Monday, April 20, 2009

Another raving review....

The Chicago Tribune is also raving (and again on the same program the Mosaiques will perform here on Thursday) :

"... for much of its 24-year history, the Vienna-based Mosaïques set new standards not only for proficiency but also probity and poetry.
Friday's performances made up the most satisfying exploration of Viennese classicism I heard in nearly half a century."

The complete review by Alan G. Artner can be found here

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The reviews are in ...

The Quatuor Mosaiques started its US tour in Philadelphia -and will end it here in San Diego this Thursday with the same program- and the first review is in : " ... the Philadelphia debut of Quatuor Mosaïques at the Kimmel Center's Perelman Theater on Wednesday had such musical intelligence and sensual allure that returning to more conventionally hard-edged groups, from the Juilliard to the Emerson Quartet, is no longer an attractive prospect...".

Read the rest of the review by Inquirer Classical Music Critic David Patrick Stearns at

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Introducing the Mosaïques, part II

When I got a call last year from New York asking whether the San Diego Early Music Society would be interested in presenting the Quatuor Mosaïques, I did not hesitate very long. Such a rare opportunity was too hard to pass up, even if it meant that the concert had to be on a weekday evening. It turns out that San Diego will be the last leg of an impressive US tour: Carnegie Hall New York, Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Library of Congress, University of Chicago, Cal Performances in Berkeley, and in Vancouver, a co-presentation by the Friends of Chamber Music and Early Music Vancouver. I must say it feels rather good to be in such a distinguished company of presenters. Not to mention the quartet's usually -sold out- venues in Europe such as the Musikverein and Konzerthaus in Vienna, Wigmore Hall in London and Theatre de la Ville in Paris.

Sell-outs in Vienna and Paris are no surprise, since three members of the quartet are Austrian (Erich Höbarth, violin Andrea Bischof, violin and Anita Mitterer, alto) and one, the cellist Christophe Coin, is French. But why a French name? It appears that the idea originated with Christophe Coin, who in 1984 founded the Ensemble Mosaïques, a chamber orchestra which he dissolved one year later, keeping the name for the string quartet he then founded with the section leaders of the defunct orchestra. Christophe Coin has had quite an impressive career. He studied cello first with Andre Navarra in Paris, then moved to Vienna where he worked with Nikolaus Harnoncourt and performed in the Concentus Musicus Vienna. He also studied viola da gamba with Jordi Savall in Basle and performed in Hesperion XX.

Coin was also a member and soloist in the Academy of Ancient Music, and he also -more recently- recorded Vivaldi's cello concertos with Il Giardino Armonico. Since 1991 he has been the director of the Limoges Baroque Ensemble, which he brought to international recognition with a series of recordings of Bach cantatas. He also heads the baroque cello and viola da gamba classes at the Paris Conservatory. Needless to say, he is widely regarded as one of the leading cellists and musicians of the baroque movement.

I already introduced Erich Höbarth in the previous post, and the two other members of this extraordinary quartet are also well known in the baroque movement. Andrea Bischof and Anita Mitterer are both permanent members of the Concentus Musicus but have also very impressive achievements elsewhere. Andrea Mitterer has held the position of Konzertmeisterin and soloist of the Austrian Bach Soloists, and is Professor of Chamber Music at the Musikhochschule in Vienna. Anita Mitterer -who plays the violin in the CMV- is also Director of the Baroque Ensemble of Salzburg and teaches violin and viola at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

This concert will be the last of their US tour, and it will also be the last of our 2008-2009 International Series. This was an early music journey that started in the 14th century with Machaut and Diabolus in Musica, took us through the Renaissance with ALSQ, and let us wander in the baroque era with Bach and Vivaldi. I could not think of a better ending than looking forward to Haydn and Mozart with such extraordinary musicians.
Laurent Planchon

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Introducing the Mosaïques, part I

The last concert of our 2008-2009 season is the Quatuor Mosaïques, and this is one I am especially looking forward to for lots of different reasons. Firstly, I am very fond of Nikolaus Harnoncourt's Concentus Musicus Wien, and being able to present this extraordinary string quartet composed of members (or ex-members in the case of cellist Christophe Coin) of this marvelous ensemble is quite a privilege. But reducing this string quartet to their relationship to the Concentus Musicus is not very fair either, as they have succeeded on their own in becoming the first (maybe with the exception of the Festestics) string quartet playing on period instruments to play at the level of the legendary string quartets (on modern instruments) of the past and of today.

Over the next few entries to this blog, I shall try to present the other members of the Mosaiques, but let me start with first violin Erich Höbarth. Mr Höbarth is probably most famous for having succeeded Alice Harnoncourt as concertmaster and soloist of the Concentus Musicus Wien in the 80s (and as such can be heard in numerous recordings of the ensemble), but -also very impressively- he became a member of the famous Végh-Quartet at only 21, and first concertmaster of the Vienna Symphony at only 24. He was also a member of the Vienna String Sextet, appears as a soloist with countless ensembles such as the Vienna Chamber Orchestra and Chapelle Royale of Paris and is Artsitic Director of the Camerata Bern. Needless to say he is a master of both the modern and baroque violin and plays on a violin by Guarnerius filius Andreae, Cremona 1705.

With the exception of French cellist Christophe Coin (who I guess came up with the French name for this string quartet and whom I shall present next), all the members of Quatuor Mosaïques are Viennese and are also part of the very special Viennese baroque movement (there have been a lot of arguments about how different the Concentus Musicus sounds compared to other ensembles from Amsterdam and elsewhere and how different their baroque technique can be) and being able to hear this fine ensemble in a purely Viennese program (Haydn, Mozart and Schubert) is quite a rare opportunity that I invite you not to miss.

Laurent Planchon

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Introducing Arion Baroque Orchestra

Our next concert of the International Series on February 6th will feature the Canadian ensemble Arion led by cellist Jaap ter Linden with countertenor Matthew White.

There is obviously no need to present Jaap ter Linden to the San Diego audience, and more information about Matthew White can be found on our website (and probably on this blog later), but oddly enough Arion's reputation does not seem to have reached us yet.
It is actually rather surprising as Arion has been in existence for quite some time now (founded in 1981!) and has a very extensive and acclaimed discography (which can be found at

But the best introduction comes probably from flutist Claire Guimond, one of its founding member and current Artistic Director, in this video. Claire Guimond will be one of the soloists on February 6.

This concert is also the second part of our two-concert series Vivaldi 2009 with the La Jolla Music Society, and we encourage you to also attend the first concert on January 24th, featuring the Venice Baroque Orchestra (for more details refer to

And of course do not forget our next concert of the Museum series on Sunday Jan 25th at 2pm with harpsichordist Takae Ohnishi, who should be by now well known to SDEMS members after her superb performance at the SDEMS house concert last May.

Laurent Planchon